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The Witcher (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Jeanne (76473)
Written on  :  Feb 12, 2008
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

18 out of 21 people found this review helpful

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Possibly the finest RPG I've ever played

The Good

I finished The Witcher for the first time 3 days ago and it's still "with" me - in my thoughts and in my dreams. As the title of this review suggests, I was thoroughly pleased with the game. While I'm going to give it a rest for a bit, I do plan to keep it installed to play at least once more.

In every respect, this is a truly great game. I'll explain more in the conclusion section.

The Bad

My computer is 3 years old, so it is not surprising that I had some problems playing The Witcher. Most of it seemed to be related to video, so I'm sure that my ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card should be ditched and replaced with a newer, more powerful model. For instance, I was thrown out of the game and my computer rebooted when I started my first new game. Then, in early chapters, I experienced random freezes, black screens, movement lags and hang-ups. However, with tips I found in the Witcher forums I was able to do some tweaking which helped. During the frustrating times, though, I never gave up. I loved it so much that I was determined to get through it. Just when I thought I could never continue, all the problems mysteriously disappeared. I was estatic when the game played flawlessly and I was able to finish it. Saving often literally kept me sane.

Speaking of saved games, you'll find out soon enough that your saved game files are huge and can quickly fill up your hard drive. Quick Save doesn't overwrite the old file, rather it adds yet another new file. It helped to know that older games can be deleted safely and doing that actually helps problems like the ones I was having. I hope that the developers will change the Quick Save in any expansions or sequels.

During some of the story, especially in Chapter 2, there was an excess of travelling long distances back and forth between NPCs. But, I realized that much of this was to make sure I faced enough monsters and quests to level up. So, although it did become tedious, it was not a big deal.

The European version has more nudity than the US version, or so I've heard. Instead of censuring, I say - give us the choice! I'm over 21 and have no minor children in my house. Add an option - let us choose the maturity level we want to see.

Finally, when the game was over I felt there were some story threads left unresolved. For instance, the fate of a young boy, Geralt's love interest and his full memory. Hopefully the sequel will address those issues.

The Bottom Line

In every RPG gamer's mind is the dream of their perfect role playing game. That game would transport them into a realm so fantastic that they could lose themselves in it and feel as if they'd become part of it. Decisions made within the game would result in consequences that affect everything around them - politically, socially, theologically as well as personally. The world must be beautiful; there must be unique NPCs with meaningful, informative conversations; the scenarios should be challenging and absorbing; the interface intuitive; the story deep with numerous sub-plots and unexpected twists; and, lastly, an ending that is both satisfying and fulfilling.

For me, The Witcher fulfilled my vision of MY ideal role playing game. But I must admit that technically speaking the game did not run flawlessly on my machine, as I explained above.

The opening intro movie clearly shows us that Geralt, the witcher, is no ordinary fighter. He shows no fear when facing the monster. In fact, he relishes the battle. The monster is his prey and he is in complete control. Using his extraordinary reflexes and cunning, he watches and learns its moves, picking the right moment to strike. He uses his fists first, knocking it off balance and causing the beast confusion and anger. Then, when the time is right, he draws his mighty sword and finishes it off. After the movie is over, it is utterly apparent that this is not just another hack-'n-slash game.

Gals take note - Geralt is one of the most extraordinarily masculine game characters I've ever seen in a game. He looks strange with his white hair and cat-like yellow eyes. And yet he is handsome, charismatic and sexy. His voice is deep and his physique, movements, stance and body language give him the appearance of absolute virility. Mmmm.

As the game begins, you'll learn that witchers are mutants - genetically altered humans designed for one purpose - to kill monsters. You'll also discover that there are few of them left to handle that task. They are not just a bunch of blood-thirsty killers. They are friends and comrades who truly care about each other and believe in their profession.

All throughout the game excellent cinematics like the intro movie are woven in. Close-up cut scenes during important conversations brought me closer to knowing the individuals involved in the story. The music was so beautiful at times that I turned it up and just sat still to listen to it.

When you start a new game, you can choose how you prefer to play it. I chose the mouse-controlled medium difficulty in which magic and potion usage is optional. I liked my choice, but you might prefer the all-keyboard method. There are 3 modes of view too ranging from over-the-shoulder to almost top-down or isometric. These can be selected in-game at will. The advancement in levels is unique to my experience. You are awarded medallions in bronze, silver and, much later, gold. Choose which skills you wish to improve upon using the number of medallions you have earned. Explanations for everything are there to help you pick things that fit your idea of how you want Geralt to evolve.

Geralt's inner abilities are enhanced by drinking special potions. In The Witcher there's much more to this than increasing health or mana, like in other RPGs, and you won't find any of his potions sold by merchants. Recipes must be found in books or scrolls and, occasionally, verbally from NPCs. Ingredients are found on plants and fallen foes or purchased. Then when you "meditate", you can mix up your own potions. It is possible to overdose when Geralt's toxin level gets too high. This, too, is unique and different from any other game I've played.

I particularly enjoyed playing Poker against many varied opponents and eventually advanced to the top as a legend. Fist fighting, too, was fun and can earn money and prestige within the ranks of the elite. That too was easy and a fun diversion.

If you love RPGs, don't miss this one

There are rumors that there will be a sequel released within the next year or so. I've also heard that the books on which this was based may be translated into English. I look forward to both.